The west ain't what it used to be. That's according to a swathe of Red Dead Online players seeking salvation. These disgruntled digital wranglers believe the multiplayer offshoot of Red Dead Redemption 2 is on its last legs through a lack of supporting content, and that it has been put out to pasture by developer Rockstar. Against the stellar service the still-thriving GTA Online has received recently, it can hardly be argued that substantial updates on the American Frontier have been few and far between of late.
By launching the #SaveRedDeadOnline campaign, however, these passionate players aim to catch the eye of the powers that be, and steer their beloved western crime simulator away from the sunset. "The #SaveRedDeadOnline campaign is something that has probably been brewing for a while," explains GTAForums admin and prominent community member Kirsty. "It's a culmination of frustration from a very dedicated fanbase."
Is there a doctor in the house?
Since the arrival of Red Dead Online in late 2018, Rockstar has given its sister game GTA Online seven hefty updates, including the Diamond Casino Heist, which gave players an entirely new location and the means to rob the place blind; the Cayo Perico Heist, which gave players an entirely new island ripe for plundering; and The Contract, which gave players rap legend and business mogul Dr Dre. Between times, GTA Online has run its signature weekly events which offer savings on specific property acquisitions, new vehicles and weapons, and double money on pre-set missions, each determined at the start of each weekly cycle.
Red Dead Online, on the other hand, has received six so-called "major updates" in that time, which have introduced new weapons, roles within the online world, and new story missions and cosmetics. Until late last year, Rockstar had also extended similar weekly events to Red Dead Online akin to GTA, but upset a sizable chunk of its playerbase when it switched those weekly initiatives to a monthly basis. Moreover, the game did not receive a major December update as many expected.
"The last content update the game received was back in July, and on par with the previous two years, there were high hopes for a winter update in December. Unfortunately, no update arrived, though this was half-expected given the huge spotlight on GTA Online's new story featuring Dr Dre, and players set their sights on a delayed new year update instead," Kirsty continues. "When Rockstar returned from the holidays and announced a month-long event of in-game bonuses for the second time in a row, it was here that the community erupted as it essentially confirmed there would be no update in January either. The hashtag started the same morning and it quickly spread through the community."
With Rockstar announcing this week's update will run for the entire month of February too, the Red Dead Online community appears as unhappy now as ever.
In a blog post of her own on fan site GTA.net, Kirsty describes Rockstar's apparent lack of interest in Red Dead Online as like "rubbing salt into the wounds of an already frustrated community", and tells GamesRadar+ that many players today view Red Dead Online as the "neglected child of Rockstar". Kirsty is quick to admit she doesn't believe anyone in the Red Dead community expects the western crime sim to take precedence over the juggernaut that is GTA, but does call for parity in the depth and frequency of updates rolled out for both games.
"We're not privy to the numbers, but it seems to us from the outside that it just isn't afforded the same kind of resources for large updates because it doesn't turn out as much profit as its older brother – it has four in-game currencies, through only one is a microtransaction, so on one side you have new players who face an excessive grind due to nerfed earnings, and on the other you have very wealthy hardcore players who have no content to buy," Kirsty adds. "Many have rallied the community with the hashtag to try and make their wish for content and communication known to the powers that be, and the campaign has been reported on several media outlets so far."
"From what I've seen, aside from actual content, the main hope is that Rockstar will just re-affirm that Red Dead Online will continue to receive updates into the future, and some are asking for the campaign to be addressed with an apology. In a lot of eyes, the game is already a lost cause, dead, and not worth campaigning for, but there have been thousands of voices sharing their love for the game and the hours they have put into championing it. Those in support have vowed to continue sharing the hashtag on everything Rockstar posts on social media until it is addressed, which is causing a lot of additional division in an already tense community. In my opinion, there isn't going to be a direct address, and we're more likely to see a Newswire post (Rockstar's official news outlet) in the near future with hints about what is to come in their online games in 2022, much like they did last year."
This isn't the first time Red Dead Online players have felt let down by Rockstar's perceived lack of support either. At the beginning of July in 2020, dozens of players flooded servers dressed as clowns as a means of protesting a lack of updates. Having launched at the end of the previous year, Moonshiners marked the game's then most recent complimentary add-on, before Rockstar introduced The Naturalists on July 28, and protests quickly subsided.
Some 18 months on, and the #SaveRedDeadOnline campaign, launched by another prominent community member Ben T earlier this month, has generated similar traction. At the time of writing, a cursory glance on Twitter shows that hundreds of users and fans of the game are adding their voice to the cause by the hour, with some calling for specific in-game improvements – including allowing players to steal wagons and horses, adding sophisticated train robbery missions a la GTA's multistage bank heists, and the simple ability to take your dog for a walk in the wilderness.
As is sadly all too commonplace in online movements of this stature though, some rogue agents have taken to spamming individual Rockstar employees with abuse. Naturally, Kirsty is dead against this type of behaviour. She adds: "We find this abhorrent. Many of us in the community have tried our best to encourage people to report this and continue only with decency. Toxicity gets us nowhere and only pushes Rockstar further from wanting to interact with the community at all, which is the last thing anyone should aim for given they keep their cards very close to their chest as it is."
As for what future updates might entail, Kirsty herself would love to see new roles or expansions to existing roles introduced to Red Dead Online. She'd like to see character properties, or community areas akin to the Diamond Casino in GTA Online; the conclusion of Jessica LeClerk's storyline with new 'A Land of Opportunities' missions; as well as visual upgrades for new-gen platforms such as PS5 and Xbox Series X, and the Rockstar Editor.
And, similar to the timing of clown-themed protests of 2020, if a substantial Red Dead Online update is, in fact, just around the corner? She and the wider community will happily eat their words.
"Rockstar's developers have been working from home since the beginning of the pandemic and likely have most of the studios focused on their next project," she says. "So as a community, we also need to take into consideration that developing any kind of updates at the scale people are expecting in the current conditions of the world is a big undertaking."
New in town, partner? Check this out – Red Dead Online guide: Everything you need to know to succeed in Rockstar's online Wild West